In 1776, the Continental Congress created a committee to spearhead symbolic colors for the seal of the United States of America. Hundreds of color combinations surfaced until the common red, white, and blue were brought to the conversation. After discussing the individual meanings of these colors the debate narrowed quickly. White signified purity/innocence, red meant hardiness/valor, and the color blue represented vigilance, perseverance, and justice. During that time in American history, the weight of these words motivated millions of people to stand up for what they thought was right.
Nowadays, the comfort of warm homes, well-lit flat screen televisions, and safety within one’s liberties can easily cloud the past civil battles domestically, but more importantly, abroad. It is unfortunate that these comforts create a wall-like barrier that separates Americans from the hardships of thousands of innocent people internationally. Luckily, there is an organization that strives to fight through this societal barrier and positively impact the lives of people who do not know the liberties created by our founding fathers. The Red Cross adopted this mission over 150 years ago. Supporting people in need abroad are 13 million volunteers worldwide, continuing to grow stronger every day.
In the past few months, the American media has begun to cast a light on the flight of the Syrian people. Countries that do not benefit from our historically rooted foundation of justice, innocence, purity, hardiness, and valor have fallen prey to the existence and growth of militants fighting against its’ citizens. The number of people displaced from their homes in Syria in 2015 is equivalent to the number of DVD and Blue Ray copies sold of the American box office hit Hunger Games upon its release in America. In contrast, as American families enjoy the drama-filled movie in the warm atmosphere of their homes, families flee Syria in search of a safe place to sleep.
The Syrian Civil War will soon drag into its fifth year. The refugee crisis began as thousands of refugees fled to neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, which quickly overwhelmed their capacity to receive them. After the public announcement that the Israel government would not allow any refugees to cross its boarders, worldwide humanitarian relief heightened. The United States as well as numerous other countries added to the effort by allowing Syrian people to enter their country.
When speaking of the causes of the refugee crisis most are unaware of the predicament. The original clash in Syria came from rebel forces against the leading political power—The Al-Assad family. The two powers disagreed greatly regarding almost every aspect of governing people, especially pertaining to religion. With this contrast in society came the easy emergence of groups like ISIS who quickly turned a verbal conflict between two parties into a countrywide crisis. Once a massive revolt of violence became a norm, the surge for civilians to flee turned into a reality.
A continued effort to change lives by altogether acting under the core principles of the colors—red, white, and blue—was ignited to help these people. Wanting change in the world is different from actually becoming that change. Mahatma Gandhi, one of the worlds most dignified humanitarian leaders once said, “Be the change you wish you see in the world.” Gandhi took this to heart and so did the first humanitarians to intervene to help Syrian refugees, members of the Red Cross. The Red Cross not only provides food and shelter for Syrian emigrants in need, but also through a process known as restoring family links, specializing in reconnecting previous Syrian emigrants with their families.
Opening one’s eyes to look past things like religion, the color of one’s skin, a television, a safe home, or social status will be the first step to following Gandhi’s mission. Action will be the second. Acting to follow the core values portrayed by the American seal would be the second and most essential step to creating something special. The next time you decide to add yourself to the list of one of the millions of people who have bought a DVD in a store, try thinking about one of the millions of Syrian refuges who need your help. Become what the founding fathers of this country did and be the difference you wish to see by acting for a change.
Written by: Red Cross International Services Volunteer, Ryan Girgash